UK judge asked to decide whether wealthy Russian businessman is already divorced


A wealthy Russian businessman has told a High Court judge that his estranged wife cannot divorce him in England because they are already divorced.

The man, who is involved in the Russian oil business, says they divorced in Russia 12 years ago.

His estranged wife, who is also Russian, disagrees.

She says he obtained a "fraudulent" divorce in Russia.

She says she should be allowed to launch divorce proceedings in England and says an English divorce court judge should make decisions over the division of money.

Mrs Justice Parker has been asked to decide whether any divorce in Russia is valid and is analysing the dispute at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

She has ruled that the family cannot be identified.

The judge is expected to make a decision later in the year.

Detail of the family's lifestyle emerged a few months ago after another London-based High Court judge analysed a separate row over the custody of their two teenage sons.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson said, in a ruling on the dispute over the children, that the family had "every conceivable material advantage" but money had not bought happiness.

The judge said instead the "pursuit and accumulation of wealth" had created conditions which left everyone "spoilt for choice and thoroughly miserable".

He said they had run up close to £1 million in lawyers' bills on the fight over the children alone.

The judge concluded that the two boys, who had been living with their mother in England, should move to Switzerland to live with their father.

Mr Justice Jackson said the man fathered a son by a woman who had worked for his wife.

The man had told his sons about the baby but not his estranged wife.

She had learned about the little boy's birth from her lawyers and was "mortified".

Mr Justice Jackson described the way the man had behaved as "shabby".

He said the family, who also have Cypriot citizenship, had forgotten how to do "simple things".

"In a case of this kind, where a family has every conceivable material advantage, it is easy to forget the old truth that money cannot buy you happiness," he said.

"It certainly has not done for this family. Instead, the pursuit and accumulation of wealth... has created conditions that have left everyone spoilt for choice and thoroughly miserable."

He added: "If the parents and children cannot return to a more considerate, a more normal way of behaving, the future is bleak."

The judge said the children had grown used to the "usual trappings" of an opulent lifestyle - lavish homes, privileged schools, incessant international travel and being constantly surrounded by staff of one kind or another.

"I do not think that the boys - and perhaps the parents either - realise that this is a lifestyle lived only by a tiny minority of people who have a very particular and perhaps rather limited world view," he said.

"For (the two teenage boys), this is their norm, but instead of providing them with opportunities, it has only given them problems.

"In dealing with all this material 'success', the family has forgotten how to do the simple things."